How Mahajanapadas evolved in Indian territory? How many Mahajanapadas were there? Which was the most powerful Mahajanapada? Read further to know more.
The “Janapadas “term indicates that the places with various types of human settlements came to receive geographical titles for the first time in Indian History, as stated in subsequent Vedic texts, Jain sources, and Buddhist sources.
The literal meaning of the word “janapada” is “the land where the Jana set foot and settled down. A tribe or a confederation of tribes living there acquired a geographical identity when they made permanent settlements there.
These groups, known as Janapadas, evolved into the hubs for the spread of standardized beliefs, traditions, and language.
According to a text from the Astadhyayi of Panini, the people were more loyal to the Janapada (a territorial unit) to which they belonged than to the Jana or the tribe.
Some janapadas became more prominent than others around 2500 years ago and were referred to as mahajanapadas.
Panini mentions more than forty Janapadas, Some of the Janapadas had evolved into Mahajanapadas by the sixth century BCE, including Magadha, Kosala, etc.
Many of the Mahajanapadas were created by combining earlier separate Janapadas.
Factors for the rise of Mahajanapadas
- With the use of new agricultural equipment, the peasants were able to clear the forests, expand their agricultural production
- The rise of agriculture also contributed to population growth and social prosperity
- The emergence of urban centers ensures the regular trade
- the rise of several categories of people, such as gahapati, merchants, settlers, etc., who engaged in a variety of activities and occupations.
Features of Mahajanapadas
- The majority of Mahajanapadas had a fortified capital city.
- It’s also possible that some kings constructed incredibly tall, imposing walls around their towns to demonstrate their wealth and might. There was a lot of planning involved in constructing such massive walls.
- This kind of massive construction needs a significant amount of labor, perhaps from thousands of men, women, and kids.
- The ruler could more readily maintain authority over the territory and inhabitants inside the walled city.
- The rajas started keeping armies. The king maintained and gave regular salaries to the soldiers throughout the year.
- They began collecting regular taxes under the rule of the Janapadas raja.
- The most significant taxes were those on agriculture. This was referred to as bhaga or share.
- Craftspeople were subject to taxes as well.
- Herders were also obliged to pay taxes in the form of animals and animal goods.
- The raja needs forest produce from hunters and gatherers.
Most Prominent Mahajanapadas
According to the Buddhist canonical literature Ahguttara Nikaya, there were sixteen significant states known as “Solasa Mahajanapada”. There were sixteen Mahajanapadas, and they either followed a monarchical or republican
political structure. The republics were located in north-western India, in what is now Punjab, and along the foothills of the Himalayas, whereas the monarchies were mostly found in the Gangetic Plains.
The Anguttara Nikaya lists the following sixteen Mahajanapadas:
Gandhara, Kamboja, Kashi, Vatsa, Avanti, Chedi, Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Anga, Kosala, Magadha, and Surasena are some of the monarchies. Republics include Vajji, Malla, and Assaka.
The ancient texts Aitareya Brahmana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and the Ramayana all mention the Anga nation, which attests to its antiquity.
It corresponds to the modern states of Bihar and West Bengal.
Its capital, Champa, was located where the Ganga and Champa rivers converged.
According to the “Jain Prajnapana,” the Angas were one of the first Aryan ethnic groups.
Over time, the kingdom of Anga developed into a significant trading hub, drawing traders from nearby kingdoms. Suvarnabhumi was a major trading hub on the commerce routes in South East Asia, therefore merchants traveled there.
It was captured by Magadha under the reign of Bimbisara, and it was his sole successful conquest.
Magadha is mentioned in the Atharva Veda.
Among the most well-known Mahajanapadas, It was situated halfway between Vatsa and Anga.
It was bordered on the north and west by the rivers Ganga and Son, on the south by the Vindhyas outcrop, and on the east by the river Champa.
Rajagriha was the initial Magadhan capital. Subsequently, Pataliputra became the new capital.
It roughly corresponds to the contemporary Patna and Gaya districts of Bihar and Bengal.
The earliest known ruler of Magadha is identified in ancient writings as Brihadratha. Magadha prospered while the country was controlled by King Bimbisara as well.
Magadha was the birthplace of great Indian empires, notably the renowned Maurya Empire.
Read: Dynasties of Magadha
It appeared to have developed into a significant town during 450 BCE.
Varanasi served as its capital.
River Varuna in the north and river Assi in the southbound ancient Kashi. This city was given its name from the rivers Varuna and Asi, according to the Matsya Purana.
It was renowned for its market for horses and cotton textiles.
The kingdoms of Kosala, Magadha, and Anga were always at odds with Kashi. Although Kashi previously defeated Kosala, Kosala later annexed it.
Shravasti was the capital of the northern region and Kushavati was the capital of the southern region.
It was in the present-day Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh.
Kosala was bordered by the rivers Gomati on the west, Sarpika or Syandika on the south, Gandak on the east, which divided it from Videha, and the Nepal hills on the north.
The region also includes Ayodhya, an important city with ties to the Ramayana.
The tribal republican territory of the Sakyas of Kapilavastu is also a part of Kosala.
The birthplace of the Buddha was Kapilavastu in Lumbini.
One of the most significant kings among Buddha’s contemporaries was Prasenajit.
Finally, upon Prasenjit’s demise, Kosala was captured by Magadha during the reign of Ajatasatru.
In modern-day Uttar Pradesh, the districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur represent the Vatsa kingdom.
The kingdom is situated on the banks of the Yamuna.
The capital was called Kausambi or Kaushambi.
This city was significant in terms of commerce
The sixth century saw a boom in trade and commerce.
The Vatsa king Udayana is referred to as the Buddha’s contemporary in the Pali Buddhist canon.
Udayana at first opposed Buddhism, but subsequently turned into a devotee and established Buddhism as the official religion.
Vatsa later became a part of the Avanti kingdom during the reign of Palaka.
This place served as a hub for Krishna’s devotion during the Megasthenes period.
Its capital, Mathura, was situated along the Yamuna River.
The Uttarapatha and the Daksinapatha, two well-known ancient trade routes in India, converged near Mathura.
Surasena is included among the northern nations in the Ramayana. The Buddhist scriptures mention Madhura.
Ahichchatra (modern Bareilly), is the capital of northern Panchala, and Kampilya, it’s the capital of southern Panchala.
The renowned city of Kannauj was situated in the Panchala Dynasty.
Subsequently, the republican rule took the place of the monarchy.
Kuru Janapata was one of the oldest and most prominent Indo-Aryan Kshatriya tribes. Kuru country closely matched up with contemporary Delhi and the nearby doab region.
Indraprastha is the capital of Kuru
Republican governance was implemented in Kuru.
The epic literature The Mahabharata portrays a conflict between two Kuru clan branches that were in power.
In the earliest stages of the Vedic Aryan people’s presence in India, the Matsyas appears to have been one of the important Kshatriya tribes.
It was located south of the Kurus and west of the Panchalas.
Its center was called Viratanagara.
It is situated in the Jaipur, Alwar, and Bharatpur areas of Rajasthan.
The eastern portions of Bundelkhand and surrounding regions made up the Chedis’ empire.
Its capital was Sotthivati corresponding toBanda district in Madhya Pradesh.
Chedi was controlled by a king named Shishupala, who was an ally of the monarchs of Magadha and Kuru, according to the ancient scripture.
Avanti played a significant part in the development of Buddhism.
The northern portion of Ujjaini and Mahishmati served as Avanti’s capitals.
It was situated in what is now Madhya Pradesh and Malwa.
Avanti was separated into north and south by the Betravati River.
Avanti developed into a significant Buddhist hub, and Chanda Pradyota was the city’s ruler during the time of the Buddha.
Sishunaga finally annexed Avanti’s kingdom to the Magadhan Empire.
The territory of Gandhara, which reached as far as the Kabul valley, largely matched up with modern-day Kashmir.
Its capital was in Taxila, a renowned academic center. Scholars from all over the world gathered at “Taksashila University” to pursue wisdom and knowledge.
Gandhara is mentioned in the Atharva Veda
The populace was skilled in the art of combat.
A strong monarch is Pushkarasarin.
Late in the sixth century BCE, the Persians conquered Gandhara.
It was the kingdom that bordered Gandhara in the far northwest, with Dwarka serving as its capital.
Kamboja underwent a republican transition from a monarchy during Kautilya’s reign.
It is situated in the Hindukush and Kashmir of the present.
Throughout all of Indian history, the horses of Kamboja were renowned. Horses in Kambojas were of outstanding quality.
The Asmaka kingdom was located close to the Godavari River.
It’s capital at Patali or Potna in modern-day Maharashtra.
was the sole Mahajanapada, which is situated south of the Vindhya range.
Buddhist sources claim that King Brahmadatta ruled over Assaka.
In the Tirhut division, the kingdom north of the Ganga was governed by the Vajjis.
It is asserted to be an alliance of eight clans, including the Jnatrikas, the Lichchhavis, and the Videhas. The Videhas’ administrative center was in Mithila. Vaishali served as the Lichchhavis’ administrative center.
The Vajji region was located in Bihar north of the Ganga and extended as far as the Nepal highlands.
Mahavira belonged to the Jnatrikas family.
During the period of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha, the Vajji confederation was most likely a republican state that had formed after the decline and fall of the Videhan monarchy.
The Vajjis were defeated by Ajatashatru.
As well as appearing in the Mahabharata, it is referenced in Buddhist and Jain texts.
A democratic nation existed in Malla.
Its land reached the northern frontier of the Vajji state.
The Mallas’ territory was split into two halves, each with its capital. The two capital cities were Pava and Kushinara.
Both Buddhism and Jainism place a great deal of importance on these two cities. Mahavira passed away at Pawapuri, whilst Buddha died at Kusinagara.
During the sixth to the fourth century BCE, sixteen oligarchic republics or kingdoms called the Mahjanapadas ruled ancient India. Early Vedic literature describes conflicts between different Aryan Janas, or tribes, and non-Aryan tribes over cattle, sheep, and lush meadows. These early Vedic Janas later amalgamated to become the Janapadas of the Epic Period.
Article written by: Aryadevi E S